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The Critics: Joan Acocella in The New Yorker

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Guest Mark D

I don't think this article in the New Yorker has been noticed on the board. She gives her views on the state of dancing at both ABT and New York City Ballet. The connections takes you to the main page. Scroll down and you will see the link to the article. I have a feeling this subject has been exhausted on the board. Any reactions?


Go to: www.newyorker.com

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Thank you for finding this for us, Mark. It's a different look at the ABT/NYCB question and I think it is worth discussing.


My favorite part was the description of "Hereafter." It could serve as a description of many ballets, alas.


The two halves were not exactly alike. Weir’s was more boring, Welch’s more foolish, with great troops of people charging around in neo-Aztec wear. But both employed the same style, “muscle ballet,” in which classical dance is used not for its intricate language—the positions, the grammar, the logic—but for its flash steps, its jumps and turns, which then serve to decorate what is essentially bad modern dance.
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Thanks very much, Mark.


I almost feel sorry for Peter Martins. He can't do anything right. He does something nice for the company – hires a promising young choreographer and encourages him in spite of the fact that the P.Y.C. consistently gets raves from most critics while Martins gets the back of the hand – and somehow receives no credit. And in addition:



Wheeldon sometimes gets overcomplicated in his pas de deux. I sense the influence of his boss here, but it’s also possible that he’s just working too fast, and putting in every idea he has.




he gets blamed for apparent flaws in the Young Genius' work. Sheesh. :(


However, I'm grateful that a ballet review has appeared in The New Yorker at long last, and hope for more, soon.

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Acocella's previous Compare-and-Contrast piece was much, much harsher on Martins and NYCB, less so on McKenzie and ABT. (Looked in vain for it on New Yorker site, but it may be buried in Links here.) So look at it in terms of which direction each is headed.


I do wish The New Yorker would let her out more often. We need her.


P.S. Aforementioned article linked here: http://www.newyorker.com/critics/televisio...crte_television

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The magazine lets her out all the time. Her byline appears with regularity, as far as I can tell. I was looking at it in general terms, not merely an article or two.



Acocella is great, and but any dance writing would be welcome. It's unfortunate that The New Yorker's dance coverage isn't required to be as comprehensive as the movie coverage, where two critics have been the norm (the same has also been true, in the past, for the theatre). Acocella also reviews books and film and has done some general interest articles. I've read these pieces with profit and enjoyment but wish someone else could be brought in to do a dance piece or two while she's off exploring other territory.

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For me, the most unusual part of the Acocella piece was what she describes as her "theory" about the Martins-Wheeldon relationship. "Balanchine, the great abstractionist, selected the Broadway-bred Jerome Robbins to be his company's second choreographer, partly, it seems, because Robbins was so different from him, because he made story ballets--pieces, in other words, that would give the audience some relief from the platonic beams of his own work. Martins may see Wheeldon as his Robbins."


Or maybe not.

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Guest Calliope

I don't know, it seemed more of a rant to me.

Basically saying that the even the NY Times gave a bad review to ABT (when they never do) for the piece, seemed to sensationalize her point.

I just felt she "reached" on the points.

Gottlieb when he bashes tries to back it up, and it could be Acocella had limited space which to write. The Martins/Wheeldon Balanchine/Robbins, McKenzie/Joffrey connections, it almost gives nobody a fair shake (and this comes from someone who is hardly a fan of Martins)

It just makes me wonder if anything "right" is going on in the dance world.

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Originally posted by Calliope

The Martins/Wheeldon Balanchine/Robbins, McKenzie/Joffrey connections, it almost gives nobody a fair shake.

Oh? I read it differently -- as a genealogy of sorts to place in context the immediate influences on McKenzie and Martins in terms of their administrative judgments. It struck me as one of the neutral points of the article.
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Guest Calliope

I read as neither Martins nor McKenzie having an original thought and while floundering went to what their predecessors had done.


I may have to re-read. It's amazing how much the tone of an article can set you up to read into something (or not)

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But your legwork is greatly appreciated, Mark. :)


To return to the topic: Acocella is just calling it as she sees it, I think. Her reference to "the chief critic of The New York Times" without mentioning Kisselgoff by name can be considered tactful or coy, depending on your perspective. (Such niceties weren't always considered way back when, when Croce was whaling away at Barnes and vice versa. Those were the days.)

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Guest Calliope

Perhaps it's because Tobias and Croce aren't out there that I have high expectations for Acocella.

After re-reading the article, it really does depend on how you approach it, I asked a friend who knows nothing and she thought Acocella was fair.

If only she had more space :)

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Actually, dirac, Croce never attacked Barnes in the pages of The New Yorker. Her criticism of his writing appeared in the early days of Ballet Review. The New Yorker may discourage this kind of thing.

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Ari, I didn't intend to refer to the publication where the remarks were made -- only the referencing by name. It's quite correct that in the past The New Yorker discouraged direct attacks on other critics, but of course, in those days, the magazine discouraged other things now currently permissible . :)


You may well be right, Thalictum, and welcome to the board. It's just our luck that Acocella has such wide interests, I guess. :)

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